“Sometimes you’re the tissue, sometimes you’re not,” said The Little Guy at the dinner table when I pointed to the line of snot across the right shoulder of my sweatshirt. I just laughed. I have never heard him say anything like that.
I looked at him and said, “That really is so profound, Little Guy.” (like he knows what that means!)
Sometimes, you are the tissue.
Sometimes there is nothing else. One of my favorite pieces of advice for a new parent is “all your clothes better be washable….half the time, they are a tissue.” There’s been many a day that I’ve seen myself in a mirror half-way through a work day and noticed the snot-line on the shoulder or across the bottom of the shirt. And I’ve never been upset. Instead I’ve smiled to realize that there’s someone at home in my life who is so precious that I get to be their tissue – I’m the one they come crying to when they get hurt, or are sad, or on days they just don’t feel well. I am the one who is there in those moments of their life, some of them little and some of them gushing blood. Sometimes I can find the tissue box. And sometimes I’m the tissue.
Sometimes I’m the tissue for other people’s kids too. Sometimes I’m picking up the little one who fell and wiping their tears. Sometimes I’m holding my mother’s foster baby who at the age of 6 months is an adorable chunk of a boy….with plenty of drool and teether-crud all over his mouth. It’s important to be “in there” for others’ kids too so that they know there’s another caring adult in the world and that the line of snot running into their mouths is not going to scare anyone away (though I’m definitely looking for the tissue box here!).
And sometimes I’m the tissue for the good friend who is under some tough stress of life or just heard some hard news. Sometimes I’m the tissue for the happy tears cried onto the shoulder of a tight hug. Sometimes I have a tissue to offer and sometimes I don’t. But I’m always thankful to have close enough friends to cry together. Because sometimes I’m the tissue, and sometimes they hold that role for me. I wouldn’t get too far in life without having some tissue friends.
So get in there and get dirty.
Be the tissue for someone today or this week. We all need a shoulder.
Strangely, I’ve continued to meditate this week on the theme of a couple weeks ago of “I really would like some space around my own body.” I feel like I need one of those sumo-wrestler suits (except that I hear they are tremendously smelly inside from multi-person use!).
Here’s the thing. I love my three boys. And I’m pretty sure I love them equally, it’s just that I love them differently. I love the gentle spirit and heart within Super Tall Guy, even though it’s often masked by his excessive body movements. I love the quirkiness of Mr. Ornery and the fact that he absolutely positively must have chocolate milk every morning and evening – and I MUST sit beside him while he gulps it down in under 2 minutes. And I love the spirit of the Little Guy who gets involved in anything that happens, forgetting that he’s only 28 pounds and likely to be squashed easily by any of the other 4 bouncing-ball boys!!
But I’m going to be honest – I actually enjoy draping my arm around Mr. Ornery for his 2 minutes of milk inhalation, yet I cringe whenever the Little Guy comes flying towards me. It’s quite a strange phenomenon, but our bodies just don’t seem to mesh at all. Could it be that he is all pointy and boney and I am all pointy and boney….and our points and bones keep jabbing each other? Or maybe it’s the unexpected fling of an arm that catches me across the bridge of the nose leaving an imprint from my glasses rims. Or it could be that as he clambers up my leg, his fingernails dig in like a cat scampering up drapes. He does give the best hugs and often walks up to me and says, “Mommy, I need a hug,” in a most darling and adorable voice. But more often than I would have thought, I’m peeling him off me saying “ow.”
It’s not easy to admit this. It feels somehow that I’m a mean mommy and being negative about one of my boys, that maybe I don’t love the Little Guy as much. But I don’t think so. I think I’ve had to admit it to myself that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and sometimes those shapes and sizes don’t fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes, those shapes and sizes bump into each other and scratch and bruise. I want to acknowledge this so that I don’t see our clash as an annoyance, but as a difference. To allow myself the freedom to truly know my boys in their uniqueness and in the way that we come together as a family. To allow myself to love each of them in our own special way and to celebrate the different kinds of love. This is not to say that I avoid being physical and loving to the Little Guy, it’s just that I see the need to accept that this is not our perfect “language of love” and that we need to develop in other areas. And that’s okay. Because sometimes in the middle of the night I hear him talk in his sleep….and a dreamy voice rings through the hall saying, “I wuv you, Mommy,” and I call back, “I love you, buddy” (even though he probably doesn’t hear me in his sleep).
For I love my three boys.